The Design choice to remove 'minimize'
Digging into this topic I found a statement about removing the default button.
a plan had already been laid out for the new standard of elementary apps: They would open and close instantly and even better, they would save their state before closing. - Elementary Blog – Shaking up Window Controls
Basically they decided that elementary apps should act as mobile apps. Thus combining the minimize function with the close button.
Elementary OS is a desktop OS and if it wants to be successful it allows you to use all programs and not only apps designed for elementary OS.
Is it a good design decision?
Removing the minimize button is a bold move. It radically changes how the user deals with window management.
- One less button, more screen space for other functionality
- The concept of a minimize has been around since even before 1988 – It has become one of the core components of Desktop OS and Window management. Every user will have to relearn their interaction.
- The communication of the user with the computer is awkward and creates misunderstandings. The apps will guess what you want to do: Did you want to listen to music and keep the program open in the background or did you want to stop listening for music? The user has only one button to express both of these commands. Probably the button is actually not used that often anymore, since most things are done with a browser and that window is always open. – I do not know I do not have any data to back that claim.
However I know that that line of thinking lead to the removal of the start button in Windows 8 and that was definitely not a good idea.
Goodbye Elementary OS
While Elementary OS has a wonderful UI and they try to focus a lot more on usability. The missing of this button makes the OS unusable for me.
For me it is back to Ubuntu – that UI also has flaws, but it has a minimize button.
Enabling the Minimize Button
I know this is Linux so you are free to do whatever you want. As usual there is a command to enable the button in Elementary OS 0.4 Freya – I enabled the button with the command:
gsettings set org.pantheon.desktop.gala.appearance button-layout 'close,minimize,maximize'
However that made the UI look a little weird and sometimes it just did not work. I just assumed that when a lot of people are googling for the problem and mentioning it – that eventually they will reconsider their choice. However currently it does not seem to be the case.